I ran out of "gift soaps" the other day. You know -all those fancy bars of soaps that come in gift packs received from friends and relatives? For some reason, I never open them and use them so I had quite a stash -probably a years worth. I enjoyed some nice luxurious soaps I would never buy for myself. Then I ran out. So I snagged a bar of soap from hubby's shower, a bar of "Irish Spring" with moisturizers it said. I had my shower and soaped up my face, and gasp, this stuff just sucked all the moisture from my skin. My face felt like sandpaper after using it. No more of that I said. I decided it might be time to start making soap. After all I had a bottle of Red Devil Lye under the kitchen sink which I was never going to use for anything so what better way to dispose of it?
I researched on the internet and wow there are a lot of soap making sites out there, the information was overwhelming. After a whole lot of reading I found what I was looking for, a pretty basic lard based soap recipe, with ingredients I could easily find at the grocery store so I could get started straight away. I opted for a blender soap recipe as the quantity was smaller so if the soap was a failure there were be less waste and minimal financial outlay.
Basic Olive Oil/Lard Soap Recipe
Lard: 10 oz
Olive Oil: 3 oz.
Water: 5 oz.
Lye (Sodium Hydroxide): 1.8 oz.
Olive Oil: 3 oz.
Water: 5 oz.
Lye (Sodium Hydroxide): 1.8 oz.
Making the soap:
First thing I had to do was gather all the soap making implements so I could be ready to mix and pour without running around like a chicken with its head cut off looking for things while my soap needed blending.
Kitchen Scale ( digital scale is great)
Pot to melt lard
Jar to measure lye, measuring cup for water
Jar to mix lye and water ( I used a container out of my recycle bin -HDPE #2 plastic or glass is recommended -I used a HDPE #2 plastic container as that's what I had)
Spoon to stir the lye water (I used disposable plastic spoon)
Mold for soap -I lined a cracker box with waxed paper
Spoon to scrape soap out of blender
Gloves and eye protection for mixing lye (I opted out of these safety items because I find with gloves I"m more apt to spill/drop things and I wear glasses and find safety glasses over the glasses cumbersome. I wanted to be able to see what I was doing)
Let the soapmaking begin:
1. First thing I did was weigh my lye, handling it like it was an explosive (it's not an explosive but can be very corrosive/toxic), keeping well clear of the jar with my face. I then measured out my water in a separate measuring cup and took both outside to mix. I poured the lye into the water and stirred. As per my recipe directions, the mixture became cloudy and heated up. I left it outside to cool. Note you don't have to go outside to do this you can mix in a well ventilated kitchen I just opted this route and I could be sure to keep the area pet free.
2. I measured out the 10 oz of lard and melted it in a pot. No need to get it boiling hot, you just want to melt the lard.
3. I poured the melted lard into the blender, measured out the olive oil and added it too.
4. Now it was time to add the lye mixture. I retrieved the lye water mixture from outside and stirred it as per directions. The mixture should be almost clear now and happily mine was. I poured it carefully into the blender being sure not to spill and immediately put the container and spoon into a sink full of soapy hot water.
5. Now it was blending time. Instructions were to blend until "trace". What is "trace" you ask? Trace is when you take a spoonful of the soap mixture and then pour it back into the blender, and the soap stays there on the surface for a few moments. I covered my blender with a towel just to be sure no lye mixture sprayed out and blended for about 2 minutes. I tried the trace test and my mixture wasn't ready so I blended for about another minute. This time I drizzled some soap back in and wow -trace happened. Pretty exciting I thought!
Soap in the blender
6. I wanted to add some scents to this soap. Since this was Christmas soap (if it was successful I hoped to give it to friends/relatives as gifts), we opted for cinnamon and mint. We added about 1/2 tsp of each essential oil and blended for a few seconds.
7. The next step was to pour the soap into the mold. I poured handling with care as the lye soap mixture is still corrosive. I left just a little soap mixture in the blender and added some cocoa (just a spoonful) to it and then blended that for just a few seconds to blend the cocoa into the soap. I then drizzled this mixture over the soap in the mold. This step can be omitted. I wanted a visually interesting soap not just a plain white bar so decided to do a cocoa drizzle.
Soap in my ever not so fancy mold prior to cocoa drizzle
Soap after cocoa drizzle, it looks yummy!
8. I covered the soap mold with cardboard and wrapped a towel around the whole thing and then put it in a safe place where it wouldn't be disturbed (I put it in an empty bird cage I have sitting unused -great to keep pets from upsetting the soap as it cures).
9. Next was clean-up. Since the soap mixture is still corrosive at this point I chose the method of filling up the blender and all utensils with soapy hot water and then letting them sit overnight. This neutralizes the lye somewhat and then you can clean up as normal.
10. After a day if your soap is firm you can take it out of the mold and cut it. If your soap is not firm after a day, just wait a day or two longer. I cut my soap with a knife being what I had but it is recommended to use a pastry scraper. Once cut into bars the soap needs to cure for at least another two weeks. I let mine cure for three weeks as I got sick and didn't want to mess with it - the longer the soap cures the better.
11. After the curing period it's time to test the soap before using/giving it away. You can use a ph tester or if you'r like me opt for the simpler methods of trying a tester soap. If you wash you hands without tingly feeling the soap is ready. You can also touch it to your tongue -if you get a bit of a zap or tingle, the soap needs more curing time.
The End Result:
The end result -not half bad if I do say so myself!
I am very pleased with the look of the soap, though I erred some in cutting the bars. I made them just a bit too large. I cut a couple of the large bars in half and that yielded bars that were just a little too small. Next time I'll measure the bars before actually cutting.
Today was the physical test of the soap, I showered with it for the first time. I was happy with the lather. The fragrance is bit odd, I think we should have opted for cinnamon or mint as I don't think the fragrances really mixed that well. It doesn't smell like either fragrance. The soap lathered well, but didn't feel too moisturizing while using it. After my shower I can say it's better than the Irish Spring but next time I"ll look to add an oil that has more moisturizing traits such as Sweet Almond Oil or perhaps I'll try the "superfatting technique" of soapmaking. My skin doesn't feel sandpaper dry, it's soft but I feel it just needs a little more moisturizer.
All in all I think this venture was a success and can say that I'll be making more soap in the near future. I enjoy knowing exactly what is going in the soap and hopefully I'll be able to come up with a nice scented moisturizing soap. I have an apple spice recipe that I will try next.